Jim Houser Interview

August 28, 2014

where do you live and what’s it like? i live in a south philly neighborhood called queens village . it’s tree lined and quiet, a small city street . i’ve been there over a decade.

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what is your art studio and working environment like? when do you typically clock in? i live in a three story house with and office and my studio on the 3rd floor. so, my studio is and average sized bedroom. i take our son to school at 9 and usually work until about three, when i go to pick him up. after dinner and tub-time, i’ll usually put a few more hours in, maybe 8-10pm.

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when did you start making art? did you always know you wanted to be an artist? i started drawing as a child and writing poetry and stories as a teen. i combined them in my 20s and maxed out in my 30s. now i’m just hanging in there.

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were you involved in space 1026 at the beginning? what was it like? are you still involved? of the original founding guys ( john freeborn, ben woodword, jeff wiesner, max lawrence, andy wright and adam wallacavage and whoever is pissed i forgot them) 4 or 5 were in providence at risd, and a few were in philly waiting for the rest to move back. i would say for the first year or so, the vibe was much more like a tree-fort than a gallery or studio space. it was fun as hell. there was a 16 foot wide 5 foot high mini ramp just three blocks from love park that we could skate at 2am if we felt like it. its crazy to think back on. i’m still involved in my spirit, but i dont know a lot of people over there any more. everyone grows onward. the space is always changing.

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what is inspiring you these days? working in paper. cut paper collage. i’ve painted on paper affixed to panel or canvas for several years, but just recently began painting and drawing with pieces of cut paper over the last six months. creating more texture in my paintings, etc. its a new tool-set to learn. i’m unsure with it. that’s always good. its opened some doors and windows and let some light and air in.

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Last good film you saw? good book? the last good film i saw that sticks out was The Enemy. i think i liked it? i won’t ruin it here. the last good book was The Weird: A Compendium Of Strange And Dark Stories, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer.

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any secrets or routines you do to help your productivity/creativity? when painting feels forced and shitty, i’ll take a break and record music for a few weeks, or fix things around the house or even just the act of taking something apart and putting it back together. Like rewiring a guitar or fixing broken toys can soothe that feeling of being an unproductive pile of garbage when i’m in pile-of-garbage mode.

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you’re a new father right? thats wild? whats it like maintaining your art practice, baby life and sanity? not exactly new, Seamus is 4. so we’ve gotten through the just keep this tiny thing alive part and are at the beginning of the explain things to and argue with this little person part. he’s rad. i could go on forever about fatherhood. the balance of art-making and person-making finds its own level, and for every parent its different, i think. our family setup and situation is a lucky one, for both seamus and for jessica and i. it works.

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if you could have any superpower what would it be? to be invisible . or to put a force field around people i love to protect them.

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what is your favorite spot in the world right now? my house.

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you seem to work with very specific characters, do they all have stories? are you working from a larger narrative? yes, all the different figures and icons all have multiple meaning its all based on context, as does much of the structure of the repeated fragments of poetry in the work. to write/draw them conjures or dispells different thoughts and feeling while i’m working.

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what are you currently working on? a nice sunburn.

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do you envision a positive future or do you think we are all fucked? hasnt it always seemed like things are getting worse and yet here we all still are? i dont know. my head gets me into a lot of trouble if i choose to start imagining the worst. it slips effortlessly down that path. i try to remain curious and just go a day at a time.

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what is your spirit animal? a DVR box with a donut resting on top.

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what astrological sign are you? do you relate to it? if yes, how? im a leo . i think some traits apply. i’m a stubborn and self centered person. but im also a very loyal person as well.

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who are some of your favorite artists currently? i like artists that are exactly like their work when you meet them. those are my favorite.

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where do you see yourself in 10 years? philadelphia , probably doing the same things. 10 years is a heartbeat, it flies by.

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what would be your last meal be? cooked by my wife and eaten while holding hands.